Volvo's Hybrid Car Campaign

By · October 06, 2008

Volvo loyalists have been wondering for some time now about the Swedish carmaker’s near-term plans for producing an eco-friendly offering within its lineup. The Ford subsidiary has shown several hybrid concept vehicles at various international auto shows, but there have been no formal announcements about taking any green ideas to market. Until now.

If Volvo delivers on its hybrid plans, in a few short years the company could have micro-hybrids, diesel-hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and clean diesel offerings.

Volvo’s green campaign will begin—according to company announcements—in 2010 when the company implements micro-hybrid stop-start technology in several of its smaller gas-powered models. This would include the C30 hatchback, the S40 sedan, and the V50 wagon. Larger vehicles would receive the new system in the following year. The stop-start system—designed to prevent unnecessary gas usage when the vehicle is at a standstill—is estimated to improve fuel efficiency by about five percent.

The C30, S40, and V50 will also be part of Volvo’s DRIVe initiative, which was on display at the 2008 Paris Auto Show last week. First for Europe, and then presumably for the US, diesel models will feature a host of eco-efficiency features, including increased aerodynamics, the use of lower rolling resistance tires, and higher gear ratios.

Volvo is also considering some common sense steps, such as the elimination of V8 powertrains. Offering around 15 to 17 miles per gallon depending on the vehicle, V8 engines are out of step with the energy-efficient direction of the automotive industry. In a recent press conference, Lex Kerssemakers, senior VP of Volvo product strategy, acknowledged that these large engines are no longer practical, and may be replaced with turbocharged six-cylinders which offer almost as much power while burning 25 percent less fuel.

And according to Automotive News, Volvo is now planning to combine modern diesel technology with a hybrid powertrain to be launched by 2012. The brand already has a history of diesel cars, most notably the Volvo 850 Turbo in the 1980s. The new system, which will be far cleaner and more efficient, will mate a five-cylinder diesel engine with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. Volvo’s diesel-hybrid technology is initially being targeted for the larger vehicles in the line-up, specifically, the S80 sedan and the XC90 utility.

Other companies, most notably Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot Citroen, have flirted with diesel-hybrid concepts, but high cost remains an impediment.

There is also talk of a plug-in hybrid version of the Volvo C30, which would allow an electric-only range of about 60 miles. This vehicle was previewed as the Recharge Concept at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show.

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